What are your Weaknesses? – Interview Question with Answers

what are your weakness

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Being asked about your weaknesses in an interview is intimidating. After all, you’re there to show them how capable you are, not to talk about what you’re bad at. But, most of the time, it’s unavoidable. It’s a very common question.
 
It’s also frequently paired with the “What are your strengths?” question, so be sure to prepare for that too.
 
If you don’t talk about anything that sounds like a plausible weakness, you come across as disingenuous or – worse – deluded as to your lack of shortcomings. But if you are perhaps a little too honest, or if your weakness is a critical one, you risk sabotaging your own interview.
 
Unsurprisingly, not many candidates answer it well. That presents you with an opportunity to stand out though; if you practice and prepare well, it can work in your favor.
 
A good answer shows that you’re self-aware and able to critically analyze your own skills. It also shows that you’re willing to address your weaknesses and that you can remain calm under pressure.

What interviewer is trying to judge

So why do interviewers ask about weaknesses when they know that most candidates don’t answer honestly?
 

It does seem a little perverse. When candidates are doing their best to put themselves across well, the interviewer asks them to talk themselves down.

But interviewers can gain a huge amount of insight from this simple question (or a variant of it).
 
It’s not sadism that keeps this question as one of the most popular – its effectiveness at getting the candidate to think deeply about themselves.
 
More specifically, interviewers might want to ask this question:
  • To assess your character and personality
  • To gauge your level of self-awareness and ability to reflect upon your own skills and gaps
  • To check that you don’t have any critical flaws that might affect your ability to perform in the role
  • To see if you’re willing to work on your weaknesses
  • To test your ability to maintain composure under pressure

Pre-requisites

How to Assess and Select a Weakness that Won’t Damage your Credibility

This is the million-dollar question – how do you pick a good weakness for this situation? The weaknesses you choose should ideally be:
  • Not fundamental to the job. You probably won’t get far if you’re applying for an accounting job and your weakness is that you’re just awful with numbers.
  • Relevant. By this, we mean that it should actually be a weakness relating to professional competencies. Answering with something like “I just don’t do enough exercise” sounds like you’re dodging the question.
  • Easily fixable. One of the most important parts of answering this question is to get across the idea that you actively work on your weaknesses. This means that your weakness needs to be something that you could feasibly improve through personal effort.

Tips on what to include and what to avoid

A good weakness answer has two important parts:

Part 1) Your weakness
Briefly describe a real weakness that wouldn’t be a major handicap on the job.
 
Part 2) How you are already working on it
Discuss your proactive efforts to improve. This shows that you are self-aware, have the drive to be your best and that the weakness will not slow you down.

 

Part 1: How to Choose a “Good” Weakness

Be authentic.

Don’t select a weakness just because it sounds good. You will make a better impression of sincerity. That doesn’t mean you have to share a weakness that makes you look bad. If you’re like most of us, you have several weaknesses and at least one of them will be interview-friendly as defined by the additional guidelines below.

Pick a weakness that is acceptable for the job at hand.

Be aware of the job requirements and don’t cite a weakness related to any of the required skills or desired qualities. If you’re an accountant, don’t talk about hating math or lack of attention to detail. If you’re in sales, don’t confess to being too reserved or lacking persistence.

Select a weakness that is relatively minor and “fixable.”

By fixable, I mean it’s something you can improve through work and motivation

Describe your weakness in a concise, neutral way.
Don’t feel like you have to go into great detail. Be brief and, most importantly, avoid sounding defensive or overly negative.
 
For example:
Fixable: “I get nervous when speaking in front of large groups.”
(You can get better through practice and learning new skills — and this is a common development area.)
Harder to fix: “I am very shy and often have trouble speaking up in meetings.”
(While there’s nothing wrong with being shy, an interviewer could assume that the candidate would have trouble collaborating in a team environment. This is a preference or personality quality that would be more difficult to change.)

 

Part 2: How to Demonstrate That You Are Working on Your Weakness

In the second part of your answer, you need to describe how you have already taken steps to improve in your area of weakness. Here’s why:
  1. A great candidate is always looking for ways to learn and grow
  2. A fabulous candidate then takes the initiative to improve
Use your answer to demonstrate your motivation to be the best at what you do. This is how to truly emphasize the positive when talking about your weakness.
 

Answers you Should Definitely Seek to Avoid

It’s a minefield of a question, and there are plenty of answers that really won’t do.
 
Learn what these answers are like and what they have in common, so you can be sure you never commit these interview sins.

 

Giving a weakness that is actually a strength

I’m just such a perfectionist. I don’t like substandard effort, so I make sure all my work is perfect. This might mean that I work too hard, but it’s worth it to me because it’s so annoying finishing work that’s less than perfect.
 
This candidate shows no humility and – more importantly – no evidence of self-reflection.

 

Giving a weakness that reflects a bad attitude

My weakness is that I just hate getting up in the morning. I snooze the alarm like ten times before finally dragging myself up. I look forward to the weekends mostly, so I can have a lie-in without worrying about getting up for work.
 
Almost no-one likes getting up early in the morning. It’s not a weakness that really tells us anything about you.
 
Moaning about it won’t earn you much sympathy, especially when it implies that you might be late to work when your penchant for snoozing gets the better of you.
 
Furthermore, this answer shows no willingness or proactive drive to resolve the issue.
 

Giving a weakness that has little or no bearing on your professional competencies

I’m scared of dogs. I got bitten by one as a child and now I can’t stand being around them. Sometimes it makes it quite awkward when I have to meet someone who I know has a dog.
 
Unless you’re applying for a job working with animals, this weakness is just irrelevant.
 

Refusing to answer the question

I don’t really have any weaknesses, to be honest. In my last role, I performed really well and couldn’t see where I could have improved.
 
Everyone has weaknesses. Everyone. From the fresh graduate to the most experienced CEO. That means that giving this answer either paints you as dishonest or deluded, and neither of those are positive traits.
 
It displays a critical lack of self-reflection and can easily come across as arrogant.
 
In addition, avoid very vague or general answers that don’t really give anything away. That will tell the interviewer that you can’t think on your feet.
 

Sample Answers

Personality Traits

Example 1: I can be too critical of myself. A pattern I’ve noticed throughout my career is that I often feel I could have done more even if, objectively, I’ve done well. Earlier in my career, this led to burnout and negative self-talk. One solution I’ve implemented over the last three years is to actively pause and celebrate my achievements. Not only has this helped my own self-esteem, it has helped me genuinely appreciate and recognise my team and other support systems.
 
Example 2: I’m naturally shy. From high school and into my early professional interactions, it prevented me from speaking up. After being a part of a work group that didn’t meet our strategic goals two quarters in a row, I knew I owed it to my team and myself to confidently share my ideas. I joined an improv acting class. It’s fun and has really helped me overcome my shyness. I learned practical skills around leading discussions and sharing diverse perspectives. Now, in group settings, I always start conversations with the quieter folks. I know exactly how they feel and people can be amazing once they start talking.
 
Example 3: I default to believing that I can solve any problem on my own. This works well in some situations but in many cases, I need the help of others to overcome factors beyond my control. In one instance, last year, I was spearheading a client event that had a lot of moving parts. It wasn’t until after the event that I realised how narrowly I had pulled it off. I was trying to manage everything from the strategic plan down to the tiniest details like table settings. I did a lot of self-reflection afterwards. Since then, I’ve been training myself to take a step back before diving into problem-solving mode and identify people or groups that can be resources to me.
 

Skills and Habits

Example 4: I’m not familiar with the latest version of [insert name of non-critical software]. Instead, I’ve focused on [insert name of preferred software] because user-centric design has become a strong passion of mine. In my last few jobs that’s where I’ve spent time learning and growing.
 
Example 5: I’ve always been a procrastinator. I used to think it wasn’t such a bad habit because I was only creating stress for myself. But when I was working for XYZ Company several years ago, I was on a group project where I could see how my putting things off to the last minute created stress for everyone else. It was a wake-up call. I started creating daily schedules that held me accountable to my team and I broke the habit. It was hard at first but using the Agile process was a real breakthrough in my workflow and mind set.
 
Example 6: I tend to be a perfectionist and can linger on the details of a project, which can threaten deadlines. Early on in my career, when I worked for ABC Pvt. Ltd., that very thing happened. I was labouring over the details and, in turn, caused my manager to be stressed when I almost missed the deadline on my deliverables. I learned the hard way back then but I did learn. Today, I’m always aware of how what I’m doing affects my team and management. I’ve learned how to find the balance between being perfect and very good and being timely.
 
Example 7: Math wasn’t my strongest subject in school. To be honest, as a student, I didn’t understand how it would be applicable in my adult life. Within a few years of being in the working world, though, I realised that I wanted to take my career in a more analytical direction. At first, I wasn’t sure where to begin but I found some free online courses that refreshed the important basics for me. In my most recent job, this new foundation has enabled me to do my own goal setting and tracking. Actually, getting over the math anxiety I had when I was younger has been incredibly empowering.
 
Few more examples:
“I tend to be overly critical of myself. Whenever I complete a project, I can’t help but feel that I could have done more even if my work received a positive response. This often leads me to overwork myself and leaves me feeling burned out. Over the past few years, I’ve tried to take time to look at my achievements objectively and celebrate those wins. This has not only improved my work and my confidence, but it has helped me to appreciate my team and other support systems that are always behind me in everything I do. “
 
“I am incredibly introverted, which makes me wary of sharing my ideas in a group setting or speaking up during team meetings. I feel that I had good intentions, I just wasn’t always comfortable speaking up. After my team didn’t meet expectations on two consecutive projects, I decided to start making changes to get more familiar with sharing my ideas for the benefit of my team. I took local improv classes and started trying to get comfortable discussing my thoughts. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s something that I’ve improved dramatically over the past year.”
 
“I tend to want to take on complete projects all on my own without any outside help. In the past, this caused me to experience unnecessary pressure and stress. One specific example was last year when I was responsible for planning our annual event. I tried to do everything on my own, from the most substantial decisions like the venue to the tiniest things like organizing the table settings. I was so stressed leading up to the event, and I narrowly pulled it off. This taught me to take a step back and analyze when I need help. After that experience, I am trying to teach myself how to ask for help so I can keep my sanity. I’ve also found a team of people can produce a better outcome than one harrowed person. “
 
“I’m not familiar with the latest version of the software that you use. I’ve spent my time recently focused on generating a positive user experience and have always been willing to learn new things. Throughout my career software has always changed and I’ve always been willing to adapt to changing technology. I will put in the time it takes to learn this new software. “
 
“I always try to avoid confrontation, in both my personal and professional life. This caused me to compromise sometimes on the quality of my work or what I needed to complete a project just to keep the peace. This became a real problem when I became a manager. One of the most critical aspects of managing people is telling them what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. I recognized this weakness and had been actively working to voice my opinions constructively and helpfully for the betterment of the team.”
 
“When I’m given a task, I am very goal-oriented and work hard to complete that task. However, when new projects come across my plate, I sometimes jump right into those projects and halt work on the projects I had in progress. Having to jump between tasks, so many times throughout the day hinders my productivity and prevents me from delivering my best work. I have been using a project management tool to help me manage my tasks and my time, which has helped me become more aware of prioritization. Since implementing this project management mentality, I have only improved my efficiency and productivity.”
 
“I am not very good at computer applications and shortcuts. But I have obtained enough skills to do meaningful work at present. Although I deliver my work bang on time at the last moment, I must admit that my speed is slow. However, I have been taking classes and practising hard to sharpen my skills so I can work more efficiently. I  really want to be a fast programmer in the future and have a better coding speed than my peers.”
 
“I struggle to manage my time sometimes and cut too close to the deadlines. To overcome this, I have started using post-its and hourly entries in my calendar to remind me of my tasks. To add to this, I have begun organizing my time into daily tasks, weekly tasks, and long terms tasks  in order to prioritize.”
 
“My communication style can be sometimes blunt and harsh. Feedback is amazing but constructive feedback can make miracles happen. Hence, I am learning to reserve my judgment and write down my blunt criticism before I say it aloud. This has allowed me to communicate well and build strong professional relationships.”
 
“Sometimes I can be a bit too honest when I provide feedback to coworkers. My personality is naturally very straightforward and to the point, and most of my colleagues really value that, but I have learned that there are times on the job when more diplomacy is required. I took a training class on conflict management and it really opened my eyes to the need to communicate differently with different people. So now I am much better at providing constructive feedback, even if it doesn’t always come naturally.”
 
“I am a very hospitable person. I have always personally believed that but this has been professionally validated by my supervisor in my annual report. People have this image of HR professionals as cold and indifferent personnel, so meeting me is like a breath of fresh air for most! My greatest weakness is my Finance skills. I have not had too much exposure of the Finance end of the business but decided to take a Coursera online program on HR Finance to equip myself.”
 
“My greatest weakness would probably be waiting too long to ask questions to clarify the goals of a project and to make sure I’m on the right path. I noticed in one of my first coding jobs out of college that I would get an assignment and, because I assumed I should be able to work independently, I’d waste time going down a particular road that didn’t 100% align with the ultimate goal and then would have to spend additional time making changes. After it happened once or twice, I started asking my manager more questions about why we were adding a particular feature, who it was intended for, what about the previous functionality had made for a poor experience, etc. And especially for bigger projects, I would reach out when I needed a gut check to ask follow-up questions as well as to share the work I’d done so far and what I was planning to do next. In the long run, it meant I could finish projects faster and do better work.”

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